Erasure's debut album Wonderland failed miserably to set the charts on fire. The three UK singles completely flopped and at the time it must have been very disheartening for Vince after his successes previously with Depeche Mode, Yazoo and The Assembly. Yet this album is still a gem and is full of some marvellous song writing. Although this album sounds somewhat dated now, the old-time synth sound has a certain charm that merely adds to the enjoyment of this album. The excellent Who Needs Love (Like That) starts it all. Solely written by Vince, this is a very enjoyable song and it puzzles me to this day why this song failed to capture the public's imagination back in 1985 when it was first released. As with much of the album, this track is a fine catchy pop treat. Reunion is another contagious number, extremely upbeat and dancey in which lyrically tells the story of being reunited with a lover after a long, troublesome period apart. By no means ground-breaking, but still a very good pop song. Cry So Easy also has that early 1980s synth-pop sound. This song, the only song in the Erasure back catalogue which credits Andy as the sole song-writer, is pleasant enough but it doesn't really stand out particularly. It is a little confused lyrically but we must remember Andy was still finding his feet in the industry when this was written.
The duo's full debut was a sparkling collection of synth-pop tunes that made up in enthusiasm and immediate catchiness what it lacked in overall variety or any sense of artistic progression from Clarke's past. Though the production, one of Flood's earliest high-profile efforts, is detailed and often lush, anyone who had followed Clarke's career wouldn't be surprised by anything on Wonderland.AllMusic Guide
Push Me Shove Me is a little farcical, and isn't a song you can take too seriously. But it is fun, and Vince's extended musical contribution still makes this an agreeable song. What I never understood about this track is how the CD version has such an abrupt ending when the cassette album version of this song fades out. A minor point, but I've never liked the way the song suddenly stops on the CD album version. Heavenly Action is regarded by many as being one of Erasure's weaker songs, and was definitely a poor choice for a single. It didn't sell either, reaching a lowly position of 100 in the UK charts. It lacks the appeal of many of the other album's track, and isn't particularly strong in any department, but despite all that it still annoyingly catchy! Say What is another enjoyable track. The Stomp Crew assist with backing vocals as Andy's lyrics berates a lover in this pleasing song. Again it is not a track of particular outstanding merit but is another likeable pop song.
Love Is A Loser is a wonderfully upbeat song, despite the connotations of the song's title. A fairground style melody and infectious lyrics make for yet another exuberant Erasure sing-a-long. Even at this early stage in their careers, it was clear Erasure were very capable song writers. Senseless is an amazing song, particularly through Vince's arrangement. A wonderfully momentous chorus melody produced to perfection by Flood makes for a real aural experience. The lyrics and the inclusion of a third verse (rarely done by Erasure) really do give your ears a treat, with Andy singing finely throughout. An early Erasure classic. My Heart... So Blue is a downcast ballad where Andy (or Vince, for it was he who wrote the song) rues the loss of his lover. Unspectacular throughout, I can't help feeling this was a prototype for the far superior and incomparable Spiralling. This ballad does give the album a more soothing section though, giving Wonderland as a whole a more balanced feel.
Fans' Best/Worst Of
- Oh L'amour
- Love Is A Loser
- Say What
Oh L'amour follows, a song of such genius it is a crime this song only reached number 85 in the UK singles charts. Everything about this song is wonderful; from Vince's musical accompaniment to Andy's wonderful lyrics and voice. A sensational classic, it is rightfully popular amongst the fans. Pistol is a weak and extremely camp track that was excluded from many non-UK versions of Wonderland. Amusing but little else, this track is by far the weakest on the album. UK CD versions conclude with additional remixes and an extended version of Oh L'amour b-side March On Down The Line which is a chirpy but unexceptional little tune.
The American version of this album is noticeably different, with Push Me Shove Me and Pistol being omitted and with March On Down The Line being present on all album formats. The mix of Oh L'amour is also substantially different – this is the original mix of the track and is a bit tinny and lightweight compared to the version found on the UK version of the album. The bonus tracks/remixes are different too – if you want the full Wonderland experience you really should own both the UK and US versions.
For the album's 25th anniversary in 2011, Wonderland was re-released as a remastered 2xCD and DVD box set. As with most remastered content, unless you have an ear for this sort of thing, or play the original and new versions back-to-back, it's unlikely you'd notice any difference in the audio but to my ear the tracks do sound crisper. The second CD is home to a collection of fairly drab b-sides and remixes, many of which haven't really aged all that well. The charming BBC Radio 1 sessions that conclude the disc are excellent though with the songs feeling like pre-produced versions of their album counterparts. The live DVD recorded in Stockholm is a welcome addition, having been previously unreleased. The overall box set package is very good, although not quite as nice as the remastered 21st anniversary edition of The Innocents.
As a debut album goes, this is no bad effort. The songs are largely extremely enjoyable and catchy, demonstrating Erasure's ability to write terrific pop songs. The dated sound of the synthesizers does not detract in any way from this album, particularly as this was Vince's most weighty use of the instrument in his career at the time. What followed next was a more defined sound that has lasted the test of time far better – and also kick-started their careers.
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